Month: February, 2015

My Top Reads of 2014

A couple of years ago I set myself the challenge to read 50 books in a year. About one a week, not too hard for someone who always has a book on the go and is a tad competitive. I came in at 51 books for that year, 56 for the next, and I have started on my list for this year. What is great about it is not the number of books, but the fact I write them all down. When someone asks me what I have read lately, I don’t just stare blankly at them as I try and remember, I can look at my list and recommend something they might like.

So here are my top five books from 2014, in the order they were read;

The Goldfinch- Donna Tart

I was utterly obsessed with Tart’s first novel, The Secret History when I was eighteen. Part of my reading list for an American Literature paper, I sat in my hostel room and devoured it imagining myself at an East Coast university, part of an elitist and drug fuelled secret society. The Goldfinch is her third novel and a huge epic about a stolen painting, but more so a coming of age story. I love the way you cannot trust the narrator entirely- you are getting their version of the story and little by little you realise that may not be the whole truth as you piece the parts of the puzzle together.
ows_138203116777579

The Light Between Oceans– M L Stedman

Read this if you want to be devastated and cry and feel for every flawed and beautiful character on the pages. A story of everyone trying to do the right thing, and yet everyone losing in some way, this is a must read from a new Australian author.

9781742755717

Run– Ann Patchett

I discovered Ann Patchett when I read Bel Canto- a beautiful observation of human nature, and have been reading everything of hers I can find since then. Run is an analysis of family relationships, ethnicity and America told beautifully. It makes you think about nature versus nurture, how privilege affects everyone, especially interesting for me living in the States where the ‘every man for himself’ mentality certainly wins out.

80566The Children Act– Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan is my favourite author. The way he uses language is so precise and perfect and… British I am in complete awe of him. Although I feel his last few novels have not been nearly as good as his earlier works, The Children Act was amazing. I found a signed first edition at my local bookshop and devoured it in a day, relishing in the powerful punch McEwan’s writing delivers.21965107

Bad Feminist– Roxanne Gay

Not usually a non fiction reader, this collection of essays on gender and race was fantastic. Gay nails the mix of anecdote with academic research for an intelligent and engaging read. I would recommend this to men, women, and teenagers who think that the fight for gender equality is over, or feel that the term ‘feminism’ isn’t for them.

z_feminist

What do you suggest for my reading list of 2015?

Advertisements

Orange and Coconut Cake to Celebrate the Sun

Spring is in the air in San Francisco, the sun is shining and there is the smell of blossom wherever you walk. I love the idea of having a spring baby, new life as the city wakes up after winter.

IMG_4891

Here is an easy cake to celebrate the sunshine, fresh flavours and the plentiful citrus fruits on offer at the moment.

DSCF4970

Orange and Coconut Cake

1 orange
3 eggs
150g butter (melted)
1 ½ cups icing sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup flour
1 cup desiccated coconut

DSCF4969

Boil the whole orange, skin and all, for about half an hour, checking the water level. This will make your house smell delicious and make sure the cake isn’t too bitter. Leave the orange to cool then cut into quarters and remove the seeds. Put in a blender until you have a smooth consistency. In a bowl, beat this with the eggs, butter and sugar then fold to combine the baking powder, flour and coconut. It’s as simple as that! Pour into a well greased cake or loaf tin and pop into the oven for about 40 minutes at 190 degrees celcius, or until a skewer comes out clean.

This cake is delicious warm from the oven, or cold the next day. I like it with a tart and creamy Greek yoghurt and a cup of tea in the springtime sunshine.

DSCF4967

Pasta for a misty evening


IMG_4779

I have been somewhat absent of late. A few weeks cooking for one while Ollie was in China for work, a trip home to New Zealand for a friend’s wedding, work and trying to get ourselves sorted for the baby’s arrival in just 7 ½ weeks (all going to plan), has meant I have not been snapping and blogging what we have been doing or eating. But here I am with a recipe for you.

IMG_4807

We had a weekend of unseasonably warm weather, 24 degrees, sunny, no wind and the smell of spring in the air. This meant wandering around the city with visiting friends, iced coffees, picnics in the park and a few new freckles. A lovely way to be welcomed back to the city after twelve days of sunshine, friends and family back home.

IMG_4857

We have also been welcomed back by the citrus stand at our local Farmer’s Market. They are currently laden with tangerines, clementines, mandarins, blood oranges, pomelos and grapefruit. Every Sunday we come home with bags of fruit, peeling and eating with sticky fingers and then watching my tummy go crazy when the sugar hits the baby. The big bowl of citrus and the sunny weather called for fresh and tasty things to eat when our friends came for dinner on Monday night. We enjoyed a quinoa, baked salmon, blood orange, fennel and pomegranate salad with fresh bread and cold white wine, followed by an orange and coconut cake that is so easy to make, I must blog it soon.

And then the mist rolled in. The temperature dropped and we were plunged back into winter. At work yesterday, all I could think of were hearty winter meals to sustain and warm us. I decided on a broccolo romanesco pasta with lots of parmesan, and perhaps some sausage meat too. May not sound glamorous, but it was perfect.

IMG_4826

Pasta broccoli e salsiccia
Serves four

I head of broccoli romanesco
4 small breakfast sausages
4 cloves of garlic
Chilli flakes
4 anchovies
Splash of white wine
Olive oil
1 packet of short pasta such as rigatoni or fusilli
Parmesan cheese

Take your beautiful, spiralling head of broccoli romanesco, break it into florets and then wash. Cook these in a pot of boiling water until tender. While these are cooking, heat a generous amount of olive oil in a pan with the chilli flakes, anchovies and the whole, peeled garlic cloves. Remove the sausage meat from the casing so you have little bits cooking in the tasty oil, flavoured with spice and salt. When the florets are tender, fish them out and add them to the sausage. I added a splash of wine at this stage, simply because we had a bit left over that wasn’t enough for a proper glass and was looking lonely. Smush most of the broccoli with the back of your wooden spoon so you have almost a pale green sauce with a few whole florets and the little bits of sausage meat within. Cover and leave on a very low heat while you cook your pasta in the broccoli water according to the packet instructions. Combine the pasta with the sauce and plenty of parmesan and dish up.

Quick to make and absurdly tasty.

DSCF4951